by Max Brantley
In case you missed it:
Paul Hewitt, who teaches education leadership at the University of Arkansas and is a former school superintendent, filled in for me this week on the last week of my vacation.
He's writing about charter schools and particularly the notion that they enjoy built-in advantages by using high standards that discourage enrollment of many students or force out some who do enroll. Some charter schools also end up attracting disparate economic communities, in comparison with nearby conventional public schools. He concludes:
The KIPP Delta College Preparatory Academy in Helena-West Helena reports, according to state Education Department figures, a “student loss” rate in the eighth and ninth grade that is between three and four times that of the Helena-West Helena School District. The “student loss” occurring at KIPP would be a scandal if it took place at a regular public school, but charter schools seem to remain under the radar when it comes to serious scrutiny. This process leaves the KIPP schools with only the most dedicated students and parents, while the rest go back to public schools.
The lesson to be learned is that policy makers must be very watchful of what is occurring as a result of school choice. Do we as a society want to see our school system divided into two distinct social classes based on race, economics, family structure, or other factors that create one system for the “best kids” and another system for all “the others?” Although charter proponents tout school choice, in reality it may not be the student's right to choose a school, but a school's right to choose the students.